Inflammation is part of your body’s natural defenses – when a cut swells up and turns red, that’s inflammation working to heal you. But when it goes into overdrive, sparked by factors like diet, obesity and smoking, it can cause a host of health problems including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer and even depression. The good news is, it’s possible to decrease chronic, unhealthy inflammation. Adopting and implementing these simple dietary strategies will really help tame that “inflammation tiger.”
Obesity, or even just an expanding waistline, is a major cause of inflammation. But you can offset this by amping up your activity. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise found the least sedentary people had the lowest inflammation, even if they didn’t lose weight. While they got about 2½ hours of moderate-to-vigorous activity per day, it included regular life activities like yard work and household chores. Yes, running around your house scooping up Legos counts! Even a small increase in activity lowers inflammation compared to being totally couch-bound.
Hit The Sack
It may be more than just a lack of sleep that causes inflammation. How you behave when you’re tired may be what’s stoking the flames. In a study from The Ohio State University, inflammation shot up when sleep-deprived couples started squabbling. When faced with a conflict, partners’ inflammatory markers jumped 6 percent for every hour of sleep they lost below seven hours. Inadequate rest may make you more sensitive to stress, which in turn causes inflammation. The good news: Using healthy conflict-resolution strategies buffered both partners against this inflammation.
Eat Your Reds, Blues and Purples
When it comes to fruits and veggies, green isn’t the only color that’s good for you. Researchers in the UK found women who regularly consume roughly 40 mg per day of anthocyanins – the compound that gives fruits & veggies its deep red and purple hues – have 18 percent lower levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammatory activity, compared to those who eat minimal amounts of them. You can get that daily dose of anthocyanins from 1/3 cup of blackberries, 18 red grapes or 1 cup of shredded red cabbage.
Anthocyanins aren’t the only antioxidants with inflammation-fighting powers. Don’t forget about carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium and Isothiocyanates, which are just as yummy and delicious to incorporate into your diet as anthocyanins.
Update Your Spices
Turmeric has been in the spotlight for quite some time now, thanks largely to curcumin, a compound that gives the sunny spice its anti-inflammatory powers. According to a recent review, curcumin reduces the production of a protein that makes your immune system work overtime. These studies used high doses of curcumin (up to 1,500 mg/day), so consider asking your doctor about supplements. You may not be able to get that much from food (5 teaspoons ground turmeric or 2 ounces fresh has 500 mg of curcumin). But the spice’s anti-inflammatory potential is still a good reason to sprinkle it liberally on roasted veggies or sip those trendy golden lattes. Try our Turmeric Ginger Latte, our Restorative Turmeric Elixir and our Golden Turmeric Tea. So many options!
Grab A Handful of Nuts
People who eat at least five 1-ounce servings of peanuts, almonds, walnuts or cashews each week had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers compared to those who didn’t eat them regularly, found a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Nuts’ anti-inflammatory effects are due to their combo of fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Nuts are also great for your heart. Don't let the high fat and calorie content of nuts and seeds scare you away from eating them. In fact, it's quite the opposite...
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
Reference: Eating Well magazine